Results tagged ‘ Ron Gardenhire ’

Willie, Joey and the Doc

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

One at a time, they approached the podium at the New York Hilton. Men of great fame, accustomed to honors and accolades.

01-24-11-Muder_Mays.jpgAnd one at a time, they looked to their right – 30 feet away in the audience at the New York City Baseball Writers’ Association of America dinner on Saturday night. And they acknowledged the great Willie Mays.

Ron Gardenhire, skipper of the Minnesota Twins and the 2010 American League Manager of the Year. Bud Harrelson, the glue that held the 1969 Miracle Mets together at shortstop. John Denny, the 1983 National League Cy Young Award winner.

Each told similar versions of the same tale, separated by only geography and time. Mays was their hero, the player who inspired them to what they became.

As more than one said: The greatest living ballplayer.

It was a chance to celebrate the Giants’ Hall of Famer, who will turn 80 this spring yet still elicits kid-like awe from three generations of baseball fans. For many, just sharing dinner with Mays was an experience they’ll never forget.

01-24-11-Muder_Gillick.jpgMays, however, was far from the only star in the room. The best of the best from the 2010 season received their hardware Saturday night, joined at the head table by luminaries like 2011 Hall of Fame electee Pat Gillick, 2012 HOF hopeful Barry Larkin, and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.

It was the coda to the 2010 season, the official start of 2011. In 22 days, pitchers and catchers will begin to report to camps in Florida and Arizona. And the journey will begin anew.

It will be tough to top the heroics of 2010. Cy Young performances by Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez. MVP seasons by Josh Hamilton and Joey Votto. And farewell campaigns from legendary managers Bobby Box, Lou Piniella and Joe Torre.

But come January of 2012, the magic will return at the BBWAA dinner. Maybe not with the bonus of an appearance by Willie Mays, but with the joy that is reborn with every fresh season on the diamond.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Hall Monitor: Hot Stove Around the Corner

Hayes_90.jpgBy Trevor Hayes

Not much is left of 2010 and even less remains of the baseball season. With the Rookies of the Year, Cy Youngs and Manager of the Year Awards doled out this week, two awards remain – the League MVPs. The remnants of the season that was haven’t stopped a flurry of action building toward 2011.

Classic impact: Monday saw a pair of new-bloods honored with the Rookie of the Year Awards. And for the third time in history, both players helped lead their club to the World Series. The Giants’ Buster Posey and Rangers’ Neftali Feliz were the first pair since 11-19-10-Hayes_KoufaxCarltonMaddux.jpgFernando Valenzuela and Dave Righetti in 1981 for the Yankees and Dodgers. The first pair was Gil McDougald and Hall of Famer Willie Mays in 1951 for the Yankees and Giants, respectively.

Seven is Three’s Company: Your National League Cy Young Award winner, author of two no-hitters – one a perfect game and the other the second ever thrown in the postseason – is Roy Halladay. The Doc’s second Cy Young shows he is among the game’s elite, but he remains five behind the all-time lead in that category. His team however, just became one of only three teams with at least seven Cy Young Awards. Hallday is joined in Phillies history by Hall of Famer Steve Carlton (four), Steve Bedrosian and John Denny (one each).

Interestingly enough, the other two clubs with seven are also NL teams. The Braves racked up seven with Greg Maddux (three), Tom Glavine (two), Hall of Famer Warren Spahn and John Smoltz (one each). And the Dodgers out-rank all major league teams with nine Cy Young Award winners: Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax (three) and Don Drysdale (one), along with Eric Gagne, Orel Hershiser, Mike Marshall, Don Newcombe and Fernando Valenzuela (one each).


11-19-10-Hayes_810WManagers.jpgNine years is a heck of a start
: Minnesota’s Ron Gardenhire won his first Manager of the Year Award, and Twins fans think it’s about time. Gardy had previously finished second in voting five times. His teams have won 90 games five times and he is the first manger in history to win six division titles in his first nine years. With 803 career wins, only five managers had more wins in their first nine seasons than Gardenhire. All five now call Cooperstown home: Sparky Anderson (863), Al Lopez (836), Joe McCarthy (828), Earl Weaver (812) and Frank Chance (810). Current Angels manager Mike Scioscia, also had exactly 803 wins through his first nine seasons.

Hot Stove action: While the heat really turns up around the Winter Meetings, a least one big trade has already gone down. All-Star utility man Omar Infante is taking his talents to South Beach while slugging second baseman Dan Uggla shifts to Atlanta. Losing an All-Star who can play almost any position on the field is big, but the Braves may have picked up a steal. Uggla owns the third-best batting average of anyone at Turner Field since it opened in 1997 at .354. Only Albert Pujols and Barry Bonds have hit better.

11-19-10-Hayes_GordonBanksRipken.jpgBut batting average aside, Uggla’s best skill is his power. He’s the first second baseman to produce four 30-home run seasons, let alone consecutively. And among the first five years of any middle infielder’s career, Uggla’s 154 home runs are tops. Three MVP-wining Hall of Famers round out the top five, with 500-home run club member Ernie Banks second (136), Joe Gordon third (125) and Cal Ripken Jr. fifth (108). Nomar Garciaparra is fourth with 117.

King Felix’s Mariners vs. Lefty’s Phils: Announced Thursday was the American League Cy Young winner, Seattle’s Felix Hernandez. The honor continues a trend of moving away from wins in the voting. In fact, the AL wins leader has won only five of the last nine Cy Young Awards.

With the lowest win total for a Cy Young winner ever, King Felix and his team set a new precedent. Previously, Steve Carlton’s 1972 Phillies were the worst team to boast a Cy Young winner. While the Hall of Fame lefty lead the league with an incredible 27 wins, his Phillies won 59 games – a .378 win percentage. This season, run support torpedoed Hernandez, who went 13-12, while Seattle posted a winning percentage of .377.

11-19-10-Hayes_CarewGwynn.jpgCatching up with the Hall of Famers: Drafted in 1978 and debuting in 1981 with the Phillies, Ryne Sandberg is returning to Philadelphia. After four seasons managing in the Cubs’ farm system, the 2010 Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year was hired to manage the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate. Starting next season, Ryno will head the Lehigh Valley IronPigs as he continues his quest to pilot a big league club.

Stan Musial made news this week as the Cardinals legend was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. The St. Louis faithful campaigned all season to get Stan the Man the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Also, two more Hall of Famers grace Studio 42 with Bob Costas tonight. Legendary hitters Tony Gwynn and Rod Carew will drop by to talk baseball and the art of hitting with the veteran broadcaster at 8 p.m. ET on MLB Network.

Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Love of baseball grows in spring

Idelson_90.jpgBy Jeff Idelson

Just back to Cooperstown after a nine-day road trip to Los Angeles, for the WBC; Phoenix, to meet with a couple of owners; and Florida, for some fundraising initiatives. My trip home from Florida on Sunday was fine, though my string of six straight Southwest flights in seat 11C – exit row aisle – came to an end.  Hey, at least I got an aisle seat.

 The main thrust of my visit to Florida was our annual Hall of Fame Champions Grapefruit League trip. We have a great circle of Champions –  individuals and couples who support the Hall of Fame at $5,000 or more.  In return for supporting our educational mission, Champions receive invitations to events across the country with Hall of Famers, spring training games in Florida and Arizona, exhibit openings, Hall of Fame Weekend and the Hall of Fame Classic, all with exclusive access.

4-3-09-Idelson_Roberts.jpgTwo weeks ago we were in Arizona to see the A’s and Mariners play. A’s General Manager Billy Beane joined us for a while before the game, and we had dinner with Hall of Famer Billy Williams.

For our Grapefruit League endeavor, we headed for Ft. Myers. Hall of Fame Vice President and Chief Curator Ted Spencer, named after Ted Williams, Senior Development Director Ken Meifert, whose heart belongs to the Indians, and I, were joined by Hall of Famer Robin Roberts.

We picked up the Hall of Fame right-hander at his home outside Tampa. “The Rays are selling out every game this spring,” beamed the longtime Phillie, about his hometown Tampa Bay Rays.

We headed south to Naples, where I talked to Robin about his career. “Sure I met Cy Young. I asked him how he won all those games and he told me he held the ball way back in his hand. I met Cobb too. He told me, ‘I wish I had a few less hits and a few more friends.'”

In Napes, we met Champion Jay Baker for lunch. Jay is a long-time Yankees fan and history buff, and along with his wife Patty, an ardent supporter of many philanthropic causes, such as the Hall of Fame. 

Over lunch, I asked Robin if he had ever been in a movie. “No, but Ashburn and I met Spencer Tracy when he was filming Judgment at Nuremberg,” he said. “What a nice man.”

Robin then quipped, “I was on television once, on What’s My Line (YouTube clip of Robin). The panel had to try and guess my off-season job, which was with the Neptunalia Seafood Company. I was president of Gold King and we sold frozen shrimp. No one could figure out what I did, but they sure came close.”

“I was on Murphy Brown,” quipped Baker. “If you watch carefully, you can see me. I was so smooth we did it on one take,” he laughed.

We spent the afternoon seeing two impressive private baseball collections – Jay’s and the one of another area Champion, Don Gunther. Both are wonderful examples of how the game means so much to people personally. They are both inspired by their love of the game and its history, akin to what happens to visitors every day in Cooperstown.

Jay and Patty generously hosted a Champions recruiting dinner that evening in Naples. There were 24 dinner guests, including former major leaguer Sterling Hitchcock, and we spent the evening all sharing personal stories about what the game means to each of us. 

Robin reminisced about meeting Grover Cleveland Alexander in grade school in Springfield, Illinois. “We had a two-room school house for 8 grades. Alexander was the special guest one day when I was in the eighth grade. He told us, ‘Baseball is a great game. Don’t drink. Look what it did to me.’ Sad, but true.”  

Hitchcock recounted how he grew up unhappy with George Brett who once refused to sign an autograph for him as a high school student. He told his fiance (who became his wife) that if he ever made the majors, he would hit Brett with a pitch.

4-3-09-Idelson_Hitchcock.jpgNot too many years later, making his major league debut at Yankee Stadium, Hitchcock hit Brett on the elbow, very much by mistake. The phone rang that night, and Sterling’s mother-in-law, who was watching the game, remembered the story and thought he had done it on purpose. “Of course, I hadn’t, nor would I ever do that” said Hitchcock, laughing.

The dinner conversation was delightful, with everyone sharing childhood memories of how they first fell in love with the game.  

Jim Collias, a retired neurosurgeon from Yale-New Haven Medical Center, recalled growing up in Boston’s South End. “Mr. Yawkey gave a bunch of us jobs working in the clubhouse during the Depression. I have fond memories of being in Fenway Park and Mr. Yawkey was a nice man. We also were sent to the train station to get the players’ bags when the team arrived in town. We all got very excited to welcome the Yankees, though Joe DiMaggio would never let us carry his bag. He would just shake his head, ‘No.'”

Saturday was spent in City of Palms Park, home to the Red Sox, who played the Twins.   Brad Penny and Francisco Liriano pitched, and – aided by some serious wind blowing out to left field –  Rocco Baldelli, Big Papi and Jason Bay all hit home runs in a Red Sox victory.

Thanks to the generosity of the Red Sox, we enjoyed the afternoon from the owners’ suite.  A number of our Champions and recruits enjoyed the beautiful weather and the pristine ballpark while talking baseball all afternoon. 

Cincinnati-based champion Buck Newsome and his wife Robin traveled in for the game with Robin keeping a detailed scorebook. “This book’s only for spring training,” she explained to me “and I like this style scorebook, because it allows me to count pitches.” The Newsomes are my kind of people — ones who adore the game.

Robin (the pitcher, not the scorekeeper) and I were on the field before the game and we spoke with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “Things sure have changed in pitching,” said Robin to Ron.  “My pitching coach and mentor, Cy Perkins’, instruction to me was pretty simple.  He said, ‘Kid, you can really pitch, keep it up; stay ahead of the batter, and; don’t get past 2-2 on a hitter.’ That was it.” 

After the game, we headed north to Sarasota to have dinner with Reds’ owner Bob Castellini and his wife, Susie, along with their son Bob, Jr., team general manager Walt Jocketty and Hall of Fame champion Bob Crotty. The dinner was wonderful. We talked to the Castellinis about the Hall of Fame and its programs and shared a lot of laughs.

On the way back to Tampa, I asked Robin about how he developed such an effective curveball. “Sal Maglie,” said Robin. “I pitched against ‘The Barber’ on opening day in 1952 and watched how he really shortened up his delivery with the curveball. So, I copied it, won 28 games that year, and never told him.”

We dropped Robin off at home around 11:30 pm, concluding a great couple of days with a group of friends who truly love the game of baseball.

Jeff Idelson is the president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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